How Does Stress Affect You?
Common responses to stress are listed below. Think about how stress affects you.
Aches and Pains
- Neck ache
- Stomach ache
- Tight muscles
- Clenched jaw
Energy Level and Sleep
- Feeling tired without a good reason
- Trouble sleeping
- Out of control
Other Emotional Signs
- Easily irritated
Some physical signs of stress may be caused by a medical condition or by medicines you take. If you aren’t sure what’s causing your physical symptoms, ask your doctor if stress might be the cause.
How Do You Respond?
When you are under stress, do any of these behaviors apply to you?
- I eat to calm down.
- I speak and eat very fast.
- I drink alcohol or smoke to calm down.
- I rush around but do not get much done.
- I work too much.
- I delay doing the things I need to do.
- I sleep too little, too much or both.
- I slow down.
- I try to do too many things at once.
Engaging in even one of these behaviors may mean that you are not dealing with stress as well as you could.
Fight Stress with Healthy Habits
Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits you may want to develop.
1. Talk with family and friends.
A daily dose of friendship is great medicine. Call or writer friends and family to share your feelings, hopes and joys and ask them to share theirs.
2. Engage in daily physical activity.
Regular physical activity can relieve mental and physical tension. Physically active adults have lower risk of depression and loss of mental functioning. Physical activity can be a great source of pleasure, too. Try walking, swimming, biking or dancing every day.
3. Embrace the things you are able to change.
While we may not be able to do some of the things we once enjoyed, we are never too old to learn a new skill, work toward a goal, or love and help others.
4. Remember to laugh.
Laughter makes us feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when we’re alone.
5. Give up the bad habits.
Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase blood pressure. If you smoke, decide to quit now. If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
6. Slow down.
Try to “pace” instead of “race.” Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done without having to rush.
7. Get enough sleep.
Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can’t sleep, take steps to help reduce stress and depression. Physical activity also may improve the quality of sleep and life in general.
8. Get organized.
Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life — your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard or drawer.
9. Practice giving back.
Volunteer your time or spend time helping out a friend. Helping others helps you.
10. Try not to worry.
The world won’t end if your grass isn’t mowed or your kitchen isn’t cleaned. You may need to do these things, but right now might not be the right time.